Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has pleaded with referees to give Jack Wilshere the protection he deserves after a bruising victory at Sunderland.
The Frenchman was unhappy with a series of hefty challenges on his players during a 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light, and in particular some of the treatment handed out to the England midfielder, with referee Anthony Taylor taking a lenient approach despite sending off Gunners defender Carl Jenkinson for two bookable offences.
Asked if he was happy with some of the tackling on show, Wenger said: "No, I wasn't, especially on Jack. I was a bit frustrated because I thought many times, Jack didn't get the free-kick he deserved."
He added: "The referee let two or three things go that I thought were fouls on Jack. I want just the referee to give a foul when it's a foul. I don't want any special protection. The referee is not a bodyguard, he is just a referee and you want him just to give a foul when it's a foul."
Wilshere limped off after 50 minutes following a collision with Sunderland's Alfred N'Diaye. Wenger's men might have had the game wrapped up by half-time, but ended it hanging on for dear life with Sunderland capitalising on their numerical advantage to stage a late onslaught.
Arsenal had gone in at the break well worth the lead Santi Cazorla's strike had given them. However, the game changed with 62 minutes gone when Jenkinson, who had only got the nod after Laurent Koscielny injured himself during the warm-up, was booked for the second time in the game and sent off.
Martin O'Neill responded by sending on new signing Danny Graham for his home debut and the Black Cats threw everything they had at Wojciech Szczesny, who denied Fletcher and Adam Johnson in a late flurry.
Wenger's opposite number O'Neill was left scratching his head after seeing his team come up only just short. He said: "It was a great game from start to finish. The tempo was very high early on and it remained so. Obviously Arsenal, a top-quality team, caused us a lot of problems in the first half but I also thought we looked dangerous as well.
"But in the second half, we just came roaring at them, and that was even before the man had been sent off. Seriously, looking back at a couple of the chances, I just don't know how we didn't score."
O'Neill's disappointment was compounded by the loss of full-back Danny Rose with a recurrence of his hamstring problem, while skipper Lee Cattermole lasted only 45 minutes on his return from a knee injury, although his premature departure was due in part to an early yellow card.